Johannesburg - Health Minister Joe Phaahla said they are following up to verify the causes of deaths through medical records since the inception of a strike by healthcare workers affiliated with the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu).
Phaahla confirmed that, so far, four people have died in Gauteng since the beginning of the strike.
“We are still following up to verify the causes of death and make sure that it can be definitely linked with the strike. From other provinces, so far, we have not received any confirmation of deaths that can be linked to the strike,” Phaahla said.
He said the more intensive strike action is in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape, some portions of KwaZulu-Natal, and the Free State. He said there were reports from Klerksdorp in the North West and Khayelitsha in the Western Cape.
Phaahla urged healthcare workers to return to work, including those who stayed away amid being intimidated by striking Nehawu members; he said police are on board with keeping facilities and healthcare workers safe.
In his walkabout at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, Helen Joseph Hospital, and Bheki Mlangeni Hospital, Phaahla engaged various management from different hospitals, and he encouraged them to get their staff back at health facilities to serve communities.
“You need to try to bring back as many of your staff as possible and inform them to report back because the security issue has been sorted out,” said Phaahla.
Residents living near Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in Johannesburg confronted some striking Nehawu members who had barricaded the streets with rocks, burning tyres, and other debris. The community members told the workers that this was their area, and they demanded that they keep it clean.
The National Health Department said it will continue to observe the situation of the Nehawu strike and its impact on healthcare services throughout the country.
The department said the strike has turned violent and is a threat to human life as the protestors prevent and block the non-striking workers from entering facilities to render much-needed services to communities, the majority of whom depend on the public health system for access to their health care needs.
The department said the situation yesterday improved in many of the facilities as the police have heeded the court order and have gone to ensure the safety of everyone, especially the non-striking workers, to attend to their work responsibilities.
Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital was impacted on Wednesday, but the department said all wards and clinics at this facility are operational at above 90% functionality.
The Department of Public Service and Administration proposes a salary increase of 4.7%, but the union is demanding 10-12%.
Nehawu nationals spokesperson Lwazi Nkolozi said the strike comes as a result of collapsed wage negotiations where they placed their demands with Public Service Commission.
“We placed our demands, and the government did not respond to those demands, which included the salary increment of 10%, R2 500 house allowance, and bursary schemes. Subsequent to the collapse of the wage negotiation, we then received a certificate of non-resolution on November 1, 2022, which then paved the way forward for us to embark on the strike,” said Nkolozi.
He said the government was arrogant toward them as workers.
Nkolozi said their members are more resolute and that they’re not going to render any service whatsoever in the public service but will instead withdraw until the government meets their demands.